In Politics Today, Orphans Searching for Community Have Too Few Choices

PHOTO: A stop light flashes near the Capitol in Washington, Oct. 1, 2013 as Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown. Susan Walsh/AP Photo
A stop light flashes near the Capitol in Washington, Oct. 1, 2013 as Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown.

A few years ago there was a private study done of the American public which utilized Carl Jung's archetypes to see where people placed themselves. The majority of voters identified themselves as "orphans." Citizens view their lives as a bit lost, anxious, without trusted institutions, disconnected, and with a great feeling of being alone. How does this impact our politics and our economy?

Voters are searching for leaders who can bind us together, who can be trusted, and who offer hope of a promised land. And at each step in the search, many come away bitterly disappointed, frustrated, and with a greater feeling of disconnection when these leaders fall into an old style of leadership. And some of these orphans began to hang onto old flawed polarized communities which give them a sense of belonging and a team to be on, but which do not create a culture for America of a cause greater than ourselves and a loving bond. They seek to draw folks in who need a tribe, but do so from pointing fingers at a common enemy. This is a natural human reaction absent a more holistic approach.

We often wonder why inner city youths join gangs which are filled with violence, crime and hate. But those gangs give our orphaned urban youth a sense of a "family" and belonging that they hunger for each day. It is flawed and broken, but it provides a community where they feel there are none. In the end, many of these youths transcend this gang tribalism realizing to improve their world and the world, they must get out and create a real sense of community around them.

In business, so many executives, as they retreat into their expensive office suites, treat employees as mere costs and consumers as a way to gather riches for themselves, neglecting service as useless expenditure. We see the proliferation of smaller unions and smaller groups of executives who bind each other together against the common enemy of each other. Fighting, like the gangs, seems the common order of business. Since there is great distrust, conflict is the strategy and not cooperation.

In much of the media, we see platforms built on a model of polarization and conflict as well. It exists on blog platforms on the Internet, communications online, and in the creation of partisan cable channels which create tribes to give citizens a place to belong. Fox News and MSNBC are prime examples of this broken model of giving voters a flawed sense of community. Having small but intense audiences, they have built a media business model based on the existence of some orphans who hunger for belonging, and have nowhere else to turn for leadership.

As gangs do in the urban cores, these two cable platforms have formed around the idea that there beleaguered voters who feel victimized and who are searching for their tribe. Conservatives point the finger at liberals as the enemy, and liberals point the finger at conservatives as the problem. And information is delivered by each, not as a genuine search for the truth, but in a battle against the enemy.

And our political party structure today has fallen into this strategy as a successful path to victory. The parties today are not interested in building a broad American team around a positive whole agenda encompassing the entire public, but in creating enough animosity about the other side that they can squeak at bare wins in temporary fashion. Each party uses conflict to coalesce their tribe against a common enemy -- the other party.

How do we break through this broken system of tribal warfare?

First, and most importantly, it requires each of us to look at ourselves. It means we have to work through our own orphan outlook, and stop being in a place of looking at ourselves as victims. What is our own personal responsibility in all this? What can we do in our own lives to create improved models of community that people want to belong to not because of a common enemy but because of common values. We need to each figure out what we can do today to see others with a common hunger and meet them there in a positive way.

Second, we must begin to demand from leaders a better way of communicating and operating at all levels. As we hold ourselves accountable in our own lives, we can then begin to hold leaders authentically accountable in politics and business. We need to speak out loudly for a greater sense of service and new institutions which bind us all as one based on the shared values which have made this country great. We can't allow them to force us into choosing between two broken institutions as our only option. And if they don't do it, then we need to not wait for them to solve the problem, we must do it together.

Having stayed too long in our own sense of being orphans, we need to realize we have the ability to create a different common archetype based on broad service in our own world and the world at large. We can be the heroes that our country so desperately needs, but it must begin in our own hearts and with the folks we see every day.

There you have it.